The European Union (EU) has blocked the release of a documentary on Afghan women who are in jail for so-called “moral crimes.”
The EU says it decided to withdraw the film, which it commissioned and paid for, because of “very real concerns for the safety of the women portrayed.” A statement from the EU’s Kabul delegation said the welfare of the women was the paramount consideration in its decision.
Human rights workers beg to disagree and say the injustice in the Afghan judicial system should be exposed.
Why Are Afghan Women Imprisoned?
According to the BBC, half of Afghanistan’s women prisoners are inmates for “zina” or moral crimes. But many of the women convicted of “zina” are guilty of nothing more than running away from forced marriages or violent husbands. In other words, hundreds of those behind bars are not criminals but victims of domestic violence.
That’s where this documentary enters the picture.
Karen Day is a Boise-based freelance writer who was in Parwan writing about a detention center the U.S. was turning over to the Afghan government when she was drawn to another story.
Women Imprisoned For Refusing To Marry Men Who Raped Them
The topic: women imprisoned for “moral crimes” — things like fleeing forced marriages and abusive husbands. She discovered that some women are locked up for alleged or actual adultery, or refusing to marry men who raped them.
Even the most conservative estimates indicate that more than half of the hundreds of women and teenage girls in Afghan prisons have been convicted of moral crimes.
The EU commissioned Development Pictures to produce a documentary highlighting women’s rights issues, but then subsequently suppressed it due to political reasons. The documentary tells the story of a 19-year-old prisoner called Gulnaz.
Gulnaz Was Raped, Then Charged With Adultery
From the BBC:
After Gulnaz was raped, she was charged with adultery. Her baby girl, born following the rape, is serving her sentence with her.
“At first my sentence was two years,” Gulnaz said, as her baby coughed in her arms. “When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”
A decade after the Taliban were overthrown, Afghan women are still waiting for justice, campaigners say.
Heather Barr, of Human Rights Watch, said: “It’s very important that people understand that there are these horrific stories that are happening now – 10 years after the fall of the Taliban government, 10 years after what was supposed to be a new dawn for Afghan women.”
For many that new dawn has not come, but for Gulnaz there is now the hope of freedom.
Her name is on a list of women to be pardoned, according to a prison official, but as she has no lawyer, the paperwork has yet to be processed.
Gulnaz’s pardon may be in the works because she has agreed – after 18 months of resisting – to marry her rapist.
“I need my daughter to have a father,” she said, according to the BBC.
Take Action Now
If you believe this treatment of Afghan women is outrageous, please click here to sign our petition calling on Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai to give Afghan women the due process they deserve.
Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB